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Brooklyn man indicted in federal court for smuggling Egyptian artifacts

July 8, 2020 Rob Abruzzese
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A 47-year-old man from Brooklyn was indicted in the Eastern District on Monday after he was arrested at JFK Airport in February for allegedly smuggling nearly 600 Egyptian artifacts.

Ashraf Omar Eldarir, a U.S. citizen, is being charged with smuggling in 590 bubble-wrapped Egyptian antiquities in three suitcases into New York. Some of the artifacts are believed to be approximately 4,000 years old.

“These cultural treasures traveled across centuries and millennia, only to end up unceremoniously stuffed in a dirt-caked suitcase at JFK,” said Richard Donoghue, the U.S. Attorney for the EDNY.

“Eldarir’s alleged smuggling of 590 artifacts pillaged from Egypt is yet another example of an individual seeking to profit by stealing history from another nation,” added Peter Fitzhugh, special agent-in-charge at the Department of Homeland Security Investigations.

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Egyptian artifacts that were allegedly smuggled through JFK airport.

According to investigations, Eldarir arrived at JFK from Egypt with three suitcases on Jan. 22 and allegedly only claimed that he was carrying $300 worth of goods before U.S. Customs and Border Protection found the artifacts meticulously wrapped in bubble or foam wrap.

When inspecting the items, CBP agents allegedly found loose sand and dirt along with the smell of wet earth that would indicate that the artifacts had been only recently excavated.

Included among the artifacts were allegedly wooden tomb model figures with linen garments that date back to approximately 1900 B.C., gold amulets from a funerary set, and a carved tablet from a Ptolemaic king which is believed to be a part of a royal building or temple.

Eldarir was charged with one count of smuggling after he was unable to provide any of the required documentation from Egypt authorizing the export of the artifacts. He was also charged with one count of smuggling from an earlier trip where he allegedly smuggled an ancient Egyptian polychrome relief.

If convicted, Eldarir faces up to 20 years in prison for each smuggling charge.

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